PIRAEUS, Greece (Reuters) - More than 1,000 migrants and refugees arrived at Greece’s biggest port of Piraeus near Athens on Wednesday as the influx of people fleeing conflict zones for Europe continued unabated into the winter months.
More than 1 million refugees and migrants braved the seas in 2015 seeking sanctuary in Europe, nearly five times more than in the previous year, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency. Most entered through Greece’s outlying islands.
So far this year, 31 percent of arrivals to Europe have been children, said medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has been treating arrivals to the Greek islands.
About 5,700 children crossed the narrow but dangerous sea passage between Greece and Turkey in just 12 days aboard rickety, overcrowded boats, it said.
“I leave my home, my country (because) there was violence, it was not safe,” said 18-year-old Idris, who left his home and family behind in Afghanistan three months ago, travelling alone through Turkey and hoping to reach Germany to study.
As others disembarked from the ferry on Wednesday, volunteers passed out hot tea and fruit to help them get through the next leg of their journey, an eight-hour bus ride from Athens to Greece’s northern border with Macedonia.
The ferry picked up a total of 1,238 migrants and refugees from the Eastern Aegean islands of Lesbos and Chios.
Among those was 25-year-old Salam, from the Syrian city of Homs, who said he had lived in a number of different cities before the fighting led him and his friends to flee.
“(They killed) women and children and men,” said Salam, who also hopes to reach Germany. (It was) very very very bad in Syria.”
Editing by Jeremy Gaunt
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